Internet speed limit soars

"Super-fast, whizbang, turbo-hyperspeed Internet service is here.Last week, Whidbey Telephone Company and its WhidbeyNET division began hooking its Internet customers onto what is fast becoming the most popular and affordable high-speed Internet connection available - the DSL or digital subscriber line.The company is starting slowly and behind schedule. WhidbeyNET announced last year that the company would have its type of DSL - asynchronous DSL or ADSL - available for Internet customers by the first of this year. But it has taken longer than expected to shake down the system and, at present, it is almost impossible to order enough routers (the hardware ADSL users must have attached to their computers) to fill all the orders for service on the company's growing sign-up list.Although Whidbey Telephone president David Henny chose not to comment on the router situation, Scott Lincoln, owner of Clinton's Lincoln Computers, said this week that WhidbeyNET has run into a problem DSL providers all over the nation are having now. Lincoln Computers was involved in some of the early ADSL system testing for WhidbeyNET, so has had an ADSL router for several months. In that time, WhidbeyNET has only been able to acquire a few dozens more of the devices from the manufacturer, Cisco Systems, which, according to Lincoln, must have grossly underestimated the sudden, nation-wide demand for the little, black plastic boxes.I think the demand caught Cisco by surprise, Lincoln said. For the people who do have the routers and ADSL service, the experience they now have on their desktops is one that can convince almost anyone to toss 28.8 and 56.6 dial-up modems into the garbage can. Operating at speeds between five and 28 times faster than the fastest dial-up modem, an ADSL hookup takes almost all the waiting out of the Internet. Online photographs download instantly at most ADSL bandwidths. At a speed of 512 kilobits per minute - a mid-priced service option through WhidbeyNET - a medium-sized application program from Microsoft's web site downloads in less than 90 seconds. Using a modem, the wait could have been 20 minutes or more.That kind of speed is exactly what many local business people have been seeking.Jim James, a Langley-area database developer, said ADSL saves him time in two ways. Until getting the ADSL hookup last week, James had to dial up client's web addresses more than a dozen times a day - an act that cost him several minutes each time he did it. Now, the Internet and e-mail are always on and ready to go.And, as other ADSL users will attest, moving around the web and downloading is blazing fast with the new service.The immediateness is important to me, James said. It's impressively faster.One of the places James appreciates the extra speed is when he needs to work on virtual private networks on line. These networks are much like the ones an office with a number of computer workstations would have, except James plugs into the network from tens, hundreds, or thousands of miles away - not from the cubicle across the room. Checking database files on a 56K modem line was excruciatingly painful, James said. Not anymore.Freeland's Porter-Whidbey Insurance absolutely had to get online with ADSL. Company owner Jim Porter said he signed up for ADSL months ago, knowing he would need the service as soon as it became available. Because more and more insurance companies require agents like Porter to do more and more business online, Porter said his office needed a fast, reliable connection. Prior to installing ADSL two weeks ago, his office did not even have Internet dial-up service - all online business was done by dialing companies servers directly.That did not work well, Porter said, because it was slow work and the connections often failed in the middle of a task.As much as anything, it's a speed issue, Porter said. It gives us instant access to our companies.Porter and James are fortunate to have ADSL service so early in WhidbeyNET's service release.So far, Scott Lincoln has not done any ADSL-related work for residential ADSL users. Every customer who has called him for ADSL accessories and software is using the new service for business only. Because ADSL is so new, Lincoln said he believes that few residential users even know it is available. Outside of business people, Lincoln said there is probably only one group of computer users deeply interested in getting hyper-fast Internet service. They are the computer geeks - men and women for whom personal computing is a lifestyle. They are the people filling the early sign-up rolls at WhidbeyNET, he said.If you look at their waiting list, I bet you it's all geeks, Lincoln said.But, once residential users do discover ADSL, they will like not only the service's speed, but how it could save them on their phone bills. ADSL runs over standard phone lines, and unlike dial-up service, does not interfere with a telephone on the same line. Thus, a rabid Web surfer will be able to receive his or her phone calls, no matter how much time he or she spends in cyberspace.How to sign upPrices for ADSL service through WhidbeyNET run from $49.95 per month for 256K download speed, to $167.50 per month for 1.5 megabit download speed. Those wishing to sign up for the service may do so on an electronic form at Whidbey Telephone Company. WhidbeyNET also has ADSL information on its website"

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